Teens who take part in the Youth Image Project get a chance to explore their creativity through digital photography.
Ramon Saenz has been attached to his Nikon digital SLR camera since last June. The Glacier High School senior has quite the artistic side, and finally got a chance to display his photos as part of the Youth Image Project Friday evening.
"We started going on assignments and just shooting around the valley," said Saenz. "It's really fun, getting a good joy out of it."
Executive Director Jen DeMonte founded the Youth Image Project as a way to empower at-risk youth in the Flathead. Saenz first learned about the project from the Center for Restorative Youth Justice in Kalispell.
"Whenever we go out we just try to capture what's really there," Saenz continued. "Just see things through our perspective through the lens."
Students participate in the year long after-school program free of charge. Stumptown Art Studio donated studio space so teens could learn the ins and outs of digital photography. Then then head into the field, documenting numerous organizations around the valley.
"The students get their work out there, and it's kind of like giving back to the community," said DeMonte. "That's a very strong thing that we'd like to foster in our program."
Saenz says he's come a long way, and credits DeMonte for a big part of his success.
"There were some wrong choices that I made but after getting referred to this program it's really got me on the right track," said Saenz.
"He has changed his life goal," explained DeMonte. "He didn't know what he wanted to do after high school. He graduates this year and is going to go to college for photojournalism."
Before he steps on campus, Saenz will come back to the program as a mentor for another crop of young, eager photographers itching to see the world through the camera lens.
To learn more about Youth Image Project, visit their website.